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The Trek Nation - Equinox, Part One

Equinox, Part One

By Michelle Erica Green
Posted at January 13, 2004 - 4:09 PM GMT

See Also: 'Equinox, Part One' Episode Guide

The Starfleet ship Equinox is under attack, with failing shields and aliens coming onto the bridge. The crew fires hand phasers as ghostlike creatures pop out of subspace fissures, decomposing one person where he stands. Another flies at the captain, and everything goes black.

In astrometrics, Janeway, Chakotay and Seven of Nine attempt to locate the source of the Equinox distress call. Janeway says that vessel was designed for planetary reserach, not deep space study, so she can't understand why it is in the Delta Quadrant; it certainly wouldn't have been looking for Voyager. The captain tells Seven that she knew of its famous Captain Ransom, an exobiologist who was a scientific hero of sorts to her. The ship goes to red alert as they set off to rescue their fellow Starfleet officers.

Voyager finds the Equinox dead in space. Ransom begs Janeway to extend her ship's shields around his. She gives the order, but as the crew complies, a strange noise echoes throughout the ship and interspatial fissures momentarily appear. Once they recede, the crew forms away teams. Chakotay finds Ensign Gilmore pinned in near the bypassed dilithium matrix, Kim and Seven find Lieutenant Lessing trapped under a piece of bulkhead. Janeway and Tuvok find Captain Ransom, injured but coherent. He says he can't communicate with the aliens who have been attacking them for weeks. Janeway offers to secure his ship, but he doesn't want to leave the bridge. They both start to explain how they came to be in the Delta Quadrant, saying the word "Caretaker" simultaneously.

Later, on Voyager, Ransom holds a memorial for his dead crewmembers and thanks the Voyager crew for rescuing the handful of remaining officers. One of those is First Officer Maxwell, who greets Torres as "BLT," a nickname based on her initials. Torres explains to Paris and Kim that they went to the Academy together, and invites her former boyfriend to dinner with her current lover and his best friend. Meanwhile, Gilmore tells Chakotay she might like to stay on Voyager, though her claustrophobia makes it difficult for her to stay in a turbolift.

Seven reports on stress points which are weakening Voyager's shields, which Ransom has explained are caused by aliens which attack from subspace but can only live for a few seconds on the Starfleet vessels. Janeway suggests catching and holding them to make them less likely to attack, something Maxwell reports the Equinox crew has been working on. They tried a multiphasic force field, but it's in a lab which has been flooded with thermionic radiation. The Voyager crew agrees to work on creating their own version.

Alone with Ransom, Janeway notes that his crew calls him by his first name and appears to have relaxed protocol. He says that Starfleet is a long way away, admiring her tight ship but sounding doubtful of its feasibility for such a long mission. The two exchange war stories: she talks about the Borg, he tells her that he lost half his crew of 80 during his first week in the quadrant. "We started to forget we were explorers," he admits, noting that they caught up with the help of a wormhole and some engine modifications. Captain to Captain, he asks Janeway if she's ever broken the Prime Directive. "Never," she declares, allowing that she's bent it a couple of times, but it was difficult for her. He says he's walked that line before too. Later, Ransom finds Maxwell in the mess and warns him that Janeway will never understand what's going on in their lab, advising his first officer to watch what he says around her crew - including old girlfriends.

The lateral shields go offline and fissures begin to appear when the aliens concentrate their attack on a single shield vector. Seven shows the two crews a plan for a multiphasic shield generator, which she believes can be built in 14 hours. Ransom tells Janeway he wants to keep his ship, but she cites a regulation which says that in a combat situation, the captain of the ship with tactical superiority becomes the senior officer, and she'd like his crew on Voyager so they can pool their resources. Ransom scoffs a little at her adherence to protocol but orders his crew to obey her orders. While Gilman informs Chakotay of salvageable parts on the other ship and greets Naomi Wildman, who makes her a little homesick for her nephew, Maxwell tries to hack into Torres' engineering station and flirts with her when she catches him.

Back on the Equinox ostensibly to collect mementos, Ransom gathers his crew and tells them of his plan to defy Janeway: "We're going home. We can't let Voyager stop us now!" Maxwell has a plan to steal the multiphasic shield generator from Voyager. As the rebel crew confers, Seven realizes that the thermionic radiation in the Equinox lab should have dissipated by now; the reason it hasn't is because someone blew out EPS conduits and rerouted their waste to the lab. Tuvok informs Janeway, who says they need to know what's in that lab. She suggests sending the Doctor, who is immune to the radiation. On the other ship, the Doctor finds a dead alien, then reports that the Equinox appears to be engaged in some sort of matter conversion, using a submolecular resequencer to turn the alien bodies into a fuel which stores their molecular energy.

As Maxwell and Ransom discuss the timing for the theft of the generator, Tuvok and a security team stop them with phasers. Janeway counts the number of murdered aliens it will take to get the Equinox back to the Alpha Quadrant - 63, Ransom volunteers - then rants that Voyager is under attack because of the Equinox, whose captain obviously feels no remorse. Ransom explains that his crew had no fuel or food, they were starving, and a captain has an obligation to protect his crew: it's in Janeway's Starfleet rule book. The Equinox luckily stumbled upon the planet of the Ankari, who summoned "spirits from another realm" to bless their journey. Ransom's crew realized that these "spirits" were in fact subspace beings which released antimatter from their bodies. They trapped an alien by accident and couldn't send it back to its own realm, then realized that the alien remains could be used for propulsion. Using the body as fuel, they traveled 10,000 light years in two weeks.

Janeway intones that he took an oath as a Starfleet officer, but Ransom tells her that's easy for her to say, with intact bulkheads and enough food for her crew. She tells him she's imprisoning his entire crew, saying it was their mistake when he complains that they were just following orders. Wishing to talk to the aliens, Janeway sends the Doctor back to the Equinox. He accesses that ship's EMH in order to get information out of the database. The double tells the horrified Doctor that he designed the resequencer after the crew deleted his ethical subroutine; then it steals the Doctor's mobile emitter and pretends to be Voyager's Doctor when Janeway calls.

As Chakotay calls Seven on Equinox for an update on her assignment to dismantle the antimatter injectors, the false Doctor sneaks weapons and transport equipment to Ransom and his crew in confinement. With the generator offline, Voyager's shields fail, and the Equinox crew fights their way out. Kim detects an unauthorized transport too late to stop the group from reaching their own bridge, where they knock Seven out and repair their engines. Torres has a lock on the multiphasic generator, but she taught Maxwell to hack through force fields when they were dating at the Academy, and he steals the equipment. On a comm line, Janeway threatens to shoot at Equinox, but Ransom tells her they've been through worse. As the Equinox warps towards the Alpha Quadrant carrying Voyager-designed equipment to trap more aliens to use as fuel, subspace fissures open all over Voyager, and an alien swoops down to attack the captain.

Analysis:

This was a cool season-ending cliffhanger for some science fiction show - not Voyager, as the continuity problems with "Caretaker" really got on my nerves, but for some other series with a captain who needs to have her outdated rule book removed from her as...trometrics lab. Oh, of course she was right, Ransom's behavior was beyond the pale, and her quick Kirk-like response reminded me of "The Omega Glory." Still, I could not help laughing at Kate's righteous indignation towards John Savage: not only is she a big fat stinkin' liar if she thinks she's never broken the Prime Directive, she doesn't even know that her precious Starfleet is taking advantage of Section 31's decision to commit genocide to win an Alpha Quadrant war she's never had to get her pretty little hands dirty fighting.

Ransom was a very compelling character, somehow dark yet open at the same time. It was obvious he wasn't playing on the level, but he didn't bother with out-and-out lies. It would have been nice if we'd gotten to hear Janeway confer with him scientist to scientist, not just Captain to Captain...which they never really did anyway, since Janeway always held the upper hand and made sure he knew it when she dragged him off his bridge and when she ordered him off his ship. Why bother to make the point that he was a fellow explorer and someone she admired if it never got brought up in their later discussions of ethics?

Ransom was correct to remind Janeway that she has bulkheads protecting her and working replicators; she can't remember what she turned into in "The Year of Hell" and other episodes where things looked a little more grim for her crew. Remember those slip-ups with the Trabe, with Species 8472, and with the Caretaker himself? Janeway has hardly been a role model for obeying the Prime Directive, and frankly she didn't need to be. It's one thing to interfere a little here or there, quite another to commit mass murder, which is the issue she should have stuck with in challenging Ransom. I'd have been happier if she looked up that regulation about who was in charge because she didn't trust him, not because she wanted to be Miss Rule Book Know-It-All, which is how she came across...silly, really, because in most of the cases when she bent the rules, she didn't even bother with rationalizations.

The Doctor was easily the most fun supporting character, with a restrained evil guise for a change..."They deleted my ethical subroutines," he announces before zapping his better half! Hardly original, but a good laugh nonetheless. Shall we dispense with the question of how a minor science vessel got an EMH, considering that Voyager supposedly had one of the prototypes along with its top-of-the-line systems? Sure, let's just take that for granted the way we were supposed to take EMH backup modules for granted last year after being told one could never exist. After all, two Docs are funnier than one.

Other character development...Torres meets up with her ex-boyfriend and reveals that she has taught TWO men to be better engineers than she is! Tommy gets a bit jealous, but that's probably because Maxwell outranks him and gets to pilot as well...plus Maxwell doesn't condescend as much and shows more interest in Torres when sabotaging her systems than Paris shows while making out with her. Ah, the love boat. I wonder whether this Maxwell is related to the Maxwell who hated Cardassians on TNG; that would explain some of Torres' interest in him. Seven gets all excited at the idea of meeting a role model of Janeway's, but then she says, "I want to expand my knowledge of humanity." How many times do we have to hear her make that gratuitous proclamation to make Janeway feel good? Chakotay gets all excited meeting yet another blonde with long hair, but she seems more interested in Naomi Wildman than in him. I did get a kick at how quickly the Equinox crewmembers latched onto Voyager crewmembers of the opposite sex. Too bad it was all in the line of duty.

My husband described the subspace aliens as looking "like the thing that ate the hot dogs in Ghostbusters only with teeth," so I laughed whenever they appeared onscreen after that. Though when dead they looked more like the gooey rubberized dead humans from Fight the Future. Between these dudes, the 8472s, and the critters from "The Fight," subspace must be crowded. But I did like the storyline. For a show whose producers have said that cannibalism is something they stay away from, the use of sentient lifeforms to create fuel comes pretty close. Yet do we really know that these things are sentient? Does Janeway have any reason to believe they're not the cosmic equivalent of soft-shell crabs? I know Chakotay would be opposed to killing them anyway, but would Neelix? An interesting moral dilemma, though I expect it will turn out they're little subspace geniuses and Janeway will make restitutions.

I do want Voyager to catch up with the Equinox to get the Doctor back - this show would be intolerable without him. But it's OK with me if Seven stays on board for awhile. Maybe she can teach that misguided crew more polite ways of using aliens, like assimilating them. In sum, "Equinox" was a fairly interesting season-ender, but in an odd way: I found Captain Ransom more compelling than Captain Janeway. While our heroine was citing regulations which said that her big guns made her best able to command, Ransom was dealing with the destruction of his crew, an intolerable situation for any rule book. His Federation rebels were not even mixed Starfleet-Maquis crew, but a group of scientists in a desperate situation. The Equinox was thrown into the Delta Quadrant and instead of meeting semi-reasonable Kazon or stupider-than-average Borg, they had to fight all the way. Of course they lost some of their ideals, that's entirely plausible, and tragic enough to make them sympathetic despite their despicable behavior...which would have resonated more if we were given a single reason to believe the aliens had something positive to offer the universe.

But in return for their sad fall, the Equinox crew become the sort of family in space that Voyager's crew can't pretend to be. I could have wept at Janeway's surprise when Ransom let his officers call him by his first name. She sees that as the first step down the primrose path to murdering aliens, forgetting that she handed over nanoprobes to the Borg to slaughter 8472s in order to save her own ship. My former colleague Ed wrote to me right after the episode wishing we'd been watching Star Trek Equinox all this time instead of Star Trek Voyager. I wouldn't give up the first few seasons, but at present, it's tempting to wonder what Voyager would be like if it were more like this desperate parallel.

Find more episode info in the Episode Guide.


Michelle Erica Green reviews 'Enterprise' episodes for the Trek Nation, for which she is also a news writer. An archive of her work can be found at The Little Review.